Two popular open-source and extensible apps have come out with minor-point updates in the past few days, but some of the changes are worth noting. has gained a lot of traction and notice this year as a credible alternative to the Microsoft Office suite, and Pidgin, the program formerly known as GAIM, supports multi-protocol text chatting including Google Chat, Yahoo, AOL, ICQ and others. bumps up to v2.3. Aso known as OOo to those with an aversion to typing long names, it's been extensible for some time but finally there are enough extensions to give users some choices to suit their needs. Available from their Web site, the plug-ins help simplify tasks as diverse as blogging, report building, exporting to Google Docs, and tools and templates for professional writers.

Most of the updates in this version are minor tweaks to improve the user's experience: additional language support, more color choices, menu adjustments for charts, and PNG file format exports. One of the more interesting ones include improved extension options menu access, which is minor but can prove to be a time-waster if you have to go through half a dozen menus to get to the menu you want.

I made the switch from more than 15 years of using WordPerfect to earlier this year, and I haven't looked back. It's been a great tool for managing the tasks I need it to do, but seamlessly integrates with MS Word formatted docs. It's available for those with Mac (Intel and PowerPC) and Linux boxes as well, an important draw as more people do cross-platform work.

Pidgin v2.2.0 comes out with support for MySpaceIM, making it the first major multi-protocol chat client to do so. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I don't want to be in a social network with anybody who wants me in their social network, but if you're in one, Pidgin makes it easy to maintain connections there and with other people you'd like to chat with. By supporting Google Chat as well as Yahoo IM, AOL IM, MSN IM, ICQ, IRC, QQ and Gadu-Gadu, Pidgin has the entire alphabet soup of chatters covered from the most mainstream and popular to the most obscure to the hippest.

Additional changes include toolbar support for the popular Strikethrough text format, so you can tell your friends just how much you hate love them, support for protocol icons from the Buddy menu and the usual slate of bug fixes and other minor changes.

I find that Pidgin shares many of the same benefits as OpenOffice does. It takes up less RAM when running than similar, closed-source applications, it loads faster, and the plug-ins and extensions make it easy to configure it to my needs, as opposed to configuring my needs to what the program offers.

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